I am reminded daily of the value of editing. Literally and figuratively. It is a career hazard working in communications, but helping people make succinct what is often verbose is a never-ending challenge, especially in my personal life, when I write this column each month.
One of the more embarrassing moments of my adult life occurred when my then-girlfriend (now wife, Lawren), found one of my journals when I was moving out of my apartment in Riley Towers. As we were packing (and evaluating) my early-30s belongings, she found my fourth-grade journal, something I was required to write in elementary school and something my mom undoubtedly thought was “cute” enough to store in a “memory box” that had been passed off to me when my parents moved.
I have a certain appreciation for nostalgia, but when Lawren began reading a passage about a kickball game and my childhood feelings being hurt by someone during recess, I instantly cringed about how immature my writing and feelings were. Then I set a personal record for seated broad-jump distance as I sprang from the couch and across the room to remove the journal from her hands in order to make the “dramatic” reading stop. Had I known then what I know now (How many times a day do we all say that?), perhaps I would have “tightened” the content and been a bit more mature in my journal entry. (Note: Few fourth-graders contemplate anything past fourth grade.) Always be editing.
“Editing” goes beyond writing. On the rare day I think the dress outfit I have assembled before leaving the house is “sharp,” I still solicit my wife’s opinion because it is the only opinion that matters to me. Lawren’s opinion does not always align with mine, especially on days when I feel like “not embarrassing myself in public” is the acceptable dress standard to which I should be held. Her standard is always higher, and I usually end up saying, “tough, but fair.” And I consider myself edited. But sometimes she is gone when I leave the house, and the joke is on her (or me—I am not sure which is appropriate).
To know me is to understand I am rarely accused of telling a concise story. The upside (I think and hope) is that I am not accused of being “rehearsed” in my small talk. If you appreciate or tolerate “full” context and color commentary, which some deem unnecessary, I might be your conversational match. If you want bullet points about my personal life in order to “churn and burn” at the cocktail party, you might be excusing yourself to “get a refill” earlier than planned. Admittedly, I am a work in progress, analyzing myself during the “post-game” but hopefully remaining sincere throughout.
A line from the iconic show “Ted Lasso” (run and watch the series if you have not seen it) contains a quote from supporting character Leslie Higgins that I cherish (slightly paraphrased), “Human beings are never going to be perfect. The best we can do is keep asking for help, accepting it when we can, and if we keep doing that, we will always be moving towards better.” I call that editing personified. If you are still looking for a resolution for 2024 even though we are nearing the end of January, please join me (and keep me accountable) with that one.
Here’s to an incredible 2024, a year ready for us to always be editing.•
Rateike is founder and owner of BAR Communications and served as director of cabinet communications for President Donald Trump. Send comments to email@example.com.
Click here for more Forefront columns.